Plutarch's Lives (Volume 3) online

. (page 4 of 38)
Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's Lives (Volume 3) → online text (page 4 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

this imminent danger ; and confiding in a barbarian, who
had been unfaithful to his own relations, to apprehend an-
other man's person, made surrender of his own. Bocchus,
having both of them now in his power, was necessitated to
betray one or other, and after long debate with himself, at


last resolved on his first design, and gave up Jugurtha into
the hands of Sylla.

For this Marius triumphed, but the glory of the enter-
prise, which through people's envy of Marius was ascribed
to Sylla, secretly grieved him. And the truth is, Sylla him-
self was by nature vainglorious, and this being the first time
that from a low and private condition he had risen to esteem
amongst the citizens and tasted of honor, his appetite for
distinction carried him to such a pitch of ostentation, that
he had a representation of this action engraved on a signet
ring, which he carried about with him, and made use of
ever after. The impress was Bocchus delivering, and Sylla
receiving, Jugurtha. This touched Marius to the quick ;
however, judging Sylla to be beneath his rivalry, he made
use of him as lieutenant, in his second consulship, and in
his third as tribune ; and many considerable services were
effected by his means. When acting as lieutenant he took
Copillus, chief of the Tectosages, prisoner, and compelled
the Marsians, a great and populous nation, to become friends
and confederates of the Romans.

Henceforward, however, Sylla, perceiving that Marius
bore a jealous eye over him, and would no longer afford
him opportunities of action, but rather opposed his advance,
attached himself to Catulus, Marius's colleague, a worthy
man, but not energetic enough as a general. And under
this commander, who intrusted him with the highest and
most important commissions, he rose at once to reputation
and to power. He subdued by arms most part of the
Alpine barbarians ; and when there was a scarcity in the
armies, he took that care upon himself and brought in such
a store of provisions as not only to furnish the soldiers of
Catulus with abundance, but likewise to supply Marius.
This, as he writes himself, wounded Marius to the very
heart. So slight and childish were the first occasions and
motives of that enmity between them, which, passing
afterwards through a long course of civil bloodshed and


incurable divisions to find its end in tyranny, and the con-
fusion of the whole State, proved Euripides to have been
truly wise and thoroughly acquainted with the causes of
disorders in the body politic, when he forewarned all men
to beware of Ambition, as of all the higher Powers the
most destructive and pernicious to her votaries.

Sylla, by this time thinking that the reputation of his
arms abroad was sufficient to entitle him to a part in the
civil administration, betook himself immediately from the
camp to the assembly, and offered himself as a candidate
for a prsetorship, but failed. The fault of this disappoint-
ment lie wholly ascribes to the populace, who, knowing his
intimacy with king Bocchus, and for that reason expecting,
that if he was made aedile before his prsetorship, he would
then show them magnificent hunting-shows and combats
between Libyan wild beasts, chose other praetors, on
purpose to force him into the aedileship. The vanity of
this pretext is sufficiently disproved by matter-of-fact.
For the year following, partly by flatteries to the people,
and partly by money, he got himself elected praetor.
Accordingly, once while he was in office, on his angrily
telling Caesar that he should make use of his authority
against him, Caesar answered him with a smile, " You do
well to call it your own, as you bought it." At the end of
his praetorsbip he was sent over into Cappadocia, under the
pretence of re-establishing Ariobarzanes in his kingdom,
but in reality to keep in check the restless movements of
Mithridates, who was gradually procuring himself as vast
a new acquired power and dominion as was that of his
ancient inheritance. He carried over with him no great
forces of his own, but making use of the cheerful aid of the
confederates, succeeded, with considerable slaughter of the
Cappadocians, and yet greater of the Armenian succors, in
expelling Gordius and establishing Ariobarzanes as king.

During his stay on the banks of the Euphrates, there
same to him Orobazus, a Parthian, ambassador from king


Arsaces, as yet there having been no correspondence be-
tween the two nations. And this also we may lay to the
account of Sylla's felicity, that he should be the first Roman
to whom the Parthians made address for alliance and friend-
ship. At the time of which reception, the story is, that,
having ordered three chairs of state to be set, one for Ario-
barzanes, one for Orobazus, and a third for himself, he
placed himself in the middle, and so gave audience. For
this the king of Parthia afterwards put Orobazus to death-
Some people commended Sylla for his lofty carriage towards
the barbarians ; others again accused him of arrogance and
unseasonable display. It is reported that a certain Chal-
dsean, of Orobazus's retinue, looking Sylla wistfully in the
face, and observing carefully the motions of his mind and
body, and forming a judgment of his nature, according to
the rules of his art, said that it was impossible for him not
to become the greatest of men ; it was rather a wonder how
he could even then abstain from being head of all.

At his return, Censorinus impeached him of extortion,
for having exacted a vast sum of money from a well-affected
and associate kingdom. However, Censorinus did not ap-
pear at the trial, but dropped his accusation. His quarrel,
meantime, with Marius began to break out afresh, receiving
new material from the ambition of Bocchus, who, to please
the people of Rome, and gratify Sylla, set up in the temple
of Jupiter Capitolinus images bearing trophies, and a rep-
resentation in gold of the surrender of Jugurtha to Sylla.
When Marius, in great anger, attempted to pull them dowr
and others aided Sylla, the whole city would have been in
tumult and commotion with this dispute, had not the Social
War, which had long lain smouldering, blazed forth at ]&?.'-.
and for the present put an end to the quarrel.

In the course of this war, which had many great changes
of fortune, and which, more than any, afflicted the Romans,
and, indeed, endangered the very being of the Common-
wealth, Marius was not able to signalize his valor in any


action, but left behind him a clear proof, that warlike ex.
cellence requires a strong and still vigorous body. Sylla,
on the other hand, by his many achievements, gained him-
self, with his fellow-citizens, the name of a great com-
mander, while his friends thought him the greatest of all
Commanders, and his enemies called him the most fortunate.
Kor did this make the same sort of impression on him, aa
it made on Timotheus the son of Conon, the Athenian ;
who, when his adversaries ascribed his successes to his
good luck, and had a painting made, representing him
asleep, and Fortune by his side, casting her nets over the
cities, was rough and violent in his indignation at those
who did it, as if, by attributing all to Fortune, they had
robbed him of his just honors ; and said to the people on
one occasion at his return from war, " In this, ye men of
Athens, Fortune had no part." A piece of boyish petu-
lance, which the deity, we are told, played back upon Timo-
theus ; who from that time was never able to achieve any-
thing that was great, but proving altogether unfortunate
in his attempts, and falling into discredit with the people,
was at last banished the city. Sylla, on the contrary, not
only accepted with pleasure the credit of such divine
felicities and favors, but joining himself and extolling
and glorifying what was done, gave the honor of all to
Fortune, whether it were out of boastfulness, or a real
feeling of divine agency. He remarks, in his Mem-
oirs, that of all his well-advised actions, none proved so
lucky in the execution, as what he had boldly enterprised,
not by calculation, bat upon the moment. And, in the
character which he gives of himself, that he was born for
fortune rather than war, he seems to give Fortune a higher
place than merit, and, in short, makes himself entirely the
creature of a superior power, accounting even his concord
with Metellus, his equal in office, and his connection by
marriage, a piece of preternatural felicity. For expecting
to have met in him a most troublesome, he found him t


most accommodating, colleague. Moreover, in the Memoirs
which he dedicated to Lucullus, he admonished him to
esteem nothing more trustworthy than what the divine
powers advise him by night. And when he was leaving
the city with an army, to fight in the Social War, he re-
lates, that the earth near the Laverna opened, and a quan-
tity of fire came rushing out of it, shooting up with a bright
flame into the heavens. The soothsayers upon this fore-
told, that a person of great qualities, and of a rare and
singular aspect, should take the government in hand, and
quiet the present troubles of the city. Sylla affirms he
was the man, for his golden head of hair made him an ex-
traordinary-looking man, nor had he any shame, after the
great actions he had done, in testifying to his own great
qualities. And thus much of his opinion as to divine

In general he would seem to have been of a very irregu-
lar character, full of inconsistencies with himself; much
given to rapine, to prodigality yet more ; in promoting or
disgracing whom he pleased, alike unaccountable ; cringing
to those he stood in need of, and domineering over others
who stood in need of him, so that it was hard to tell
whether his nature had more in it of pride or of servility.
As to his unequal distribution of punishments, as, for
example, that upon slight grounds he would put to the
torture, and again would bear patiently with the greatest
wrongs ; would readily forgive and be reconciled after the
most heinous acts of enmity, and yet would visit small
and inconsiderable offences with death and confiscation of
goods ; one might judge that in himself he was really of a
violent and revengeful nature, which, however, he could
qualify, upon reflection, for his interest. In this very So-
cial War, when the soldiers with stones and clubs had
killed an officer of praetorian rank, his own lieutenant,
Albinus by name, he passed by this flagrant crime without
any inquiry, giving it out moreover in a boast, that the


soldiers would behave all the better now, to make amends,
by some special bravery, for their breach of discipline. He
took no notice of the clamors of those that cried for justice,
but designing already to supplant Marius, now that ha
saw the Social War near its end, he made much of his army,
in hopes to get himself declared general of the forces
against Mithridates.

At his return to Rome he was chosen consul vith
Quintus Pompeius, in the fiftieth year of his age, and made
a most distinguished marriage with Csecilia, daughter of
Metellus, the chief priest. The common people made a
variety of verses in ridicule of the marriage, and many of
the nobility also were disgusted at it, esteeming him, as
Livy writes, unworthy of this connection, whom before
they thought worthy of a consulship. This was not his
only wife, for first, in his younger days, he was married,
to Ilia, by whom he had a daughter ; after her to ^Elia ;
and thirdly to Cloelia, whom he dismissed as barren, but
honorably, and with professions of respect, adding, more
over, presents. But the match between him and Metella,
falling out a few days after, occasioned suspicions that
he had complained of Cloelia without due cause. To
Metella he always showed great deference, so much so
that the people, when anxious for the recall of the ex-
iles of Marius's party, upon his refusal, entreated the
intercession of Metella. And the Athenians, it is thought,
had harder measure, at the capture of their town, because
they used insulting language to Metella in their jests from
the walls during the siege. But of this hereafter.

At present esteeming the consulship but a small matter
in comparison of things to come, he was impatiently car-
ried away in thought to the Mithridatic War. Here he
was withstood by Marius ; who out of mad affectation of
glory and thirst for distinction, those never dying passions,
though he were now unwieldy in body, and had given up
service on account of his age, during the late campaigns,


still coveted after command in a distant war beyond the
seas. And whilst Sylla was departed for the camp, to
order the rest of his affairs there, he sate brooding at
home, and at last hatched that execrable sedition, which
wrought Rome more mischief than all her enemies together
had done, as was indeed foreshown by the gods. For a
flame broke forth of its own accord, from -under the staves
of the ensigns, and was with difficulty extinguished.
Three ravens brought their young into the open road, and
ate them, carrying the relics into the nest again. Mice
having gnawed the consecrated gold in one of the temples,
the keepers caught one of them, a female, in a trap ; and
she bringing forth five young ones in the very trap,
devoured three of them. But what was greatest of all, in
a calm and clear sky there was heard the sound of a trum-
pet, with such a loud and dismal blast, as struck terror
and amazement into the hearts of the people. The Etrus-
can sages affirmed that this prodigy betokened the muta-
tion of the age, and a general revolution in the world.
For according to them there are in all eight ages, differing
one from another in the lives and the characters of men,
and to each of these God has allotted a certain measure of
time, determined by the circuit of the great year. And
when one age is run out, at the approach of another, there
appears some wonderful sign from earth or heaven, such as
makes it manifest at once to those who have made it their
business to study such things, that there has succeeded in
the world a new race of men, differing in customs and
institutes of life, and more or less regarded by the gods
than the preceding. Among other great changes that hap-
pen, as they say, at the turn of ages, the art of divination,
also, at one time rises in esteem, and is more successful in
its predictions, clearer and surer tokens being sent from
God, and then, again, in another generation declines as low,
becoming mere guesswork for the most part, and discerning
future events by dim and uncertain intimations. This was


the mythology of the wisest of the Tuscan sages, who were
thought to possess a knowledge beyond other men. Whilst
the senate sat in consultation with the soothsayers, con-
cerning these prodigies, in the temple of Bellona, a spar-
row came flying in, before them all, with a grasshopper in
its mouth, and letting fall one part of it, flew away with
the remainder. The diviners foreboded commotions and
dissensions between the great landed proprietors and the
common city populace; the latter, like the grasshopper,
being loud and talkative ; while the sparrow might repre-
sent the " dwellers in the field."

Marius had taken into alliance Sulpicius, the tribune, a
man second to none in any villanies, so that it was less the
question what others he surpassed, but rather in what re-
spects he most surpassed himself in wickedness. He was
cruel, bold, rapacious, and in all these points utterly shame-
less and unscrupulous ; not hesitating to offer Roman citi-
zenship by public sale to freed slaves and aliens, and to
count out the price on public money-tables in the forum.
He maintained three thousand swordsmen, and had always
about him a company of young men of the equestrian class
ready for all occasions, whom he styled his Anti-senate.
Having had a law enacted, that no senator should contract
a debt of above two thousand drachmas, he himself, after
death, was found indebted three millions. This was the
man whom Marius let in upon the Commonwealth, and
who, confounding all things by force and the sword, made
several ordinances of dangerous consequence, and amongst
the rest one giving Marius the conduct of the Mithridatio
war. Upon this the consuls proclaimed a public cessation
of business, but as they were holding an assembly near the
temple of Castor and Pollux, he let loose the rabble upon
them, and amongst many others slew the consul Pom-
peius's young son in the forum, Pompeius himself hardly
escaping in the crowd. Sylla, being closely pursued into
the house of Marius, was forced to come forth and dissolve


the cessation ; and for his doing this, Sulpicius, having de-
posed Pompeius, allowed Sylla to continue his consulship,
only transferring the Mithridatic expedition to Marius.

There were immediately despatched to Nola tribunes to
receive the army, and bring it to Marius ; but Sylla, having
got first to the camp, and the soldiers, upon hearing the
news, having stoned the tribunes, Marius, in requital, pro-
ceeded to put the friends of Sylla in the city to the sword,
and rifled their goods. Every kind of removal and flight
went on, some hastening from the camp to the city, others
from the city to the camp. The senate, no more in its own
power, but wholly governed by the dictates of Marius and
Sulpicius, alarmed at the report of Sylla's advancing with
his troops towards the city, sent forth two of the prsetors,
Brutus and Servilius, to forbid his nearer approach. The
soldiers would have slain these prsetors in a fury, for their
bold language to Sylla ; contenting themselves, however,
with breaking their rods, and tearing off their purple-edged
robes, after much contumelious usage they sent them back,
to the sad dejection of the citizens, who beheld their mag-
istrates despoiled of their badges of office, and announcing
to them that things were now manifestly come to a rup-
ture past all cure. Marius put himself in readiness, and
Sylla with his colleague moved from Nola, at the head of
six complete legions, all of them willing to march up di-
rectly against the city, though he himself as yet was doubt-
ful in thought, and apprehensive of the danger. As he was
sacrificing, Postumius the soothsayer, having inspected the
entrails, stretching forth both hands to Sylla, required to
be bound and kept in custody till the battle was over, as
willing, if they had not speedy and complete success, to
suffer the utmost punishment. It is said, also, that there
appeared to Sylla himself, in a dream, a certain goddess,
whom the Romans learnt to worship from the Cappado-
cians, whether it be the Moon, or Pallas, or Bellona. This
same goddess, to his thinking, stood by him, and put into

4 6 PL U TA 7? Fir S L TVEZ.

his hand thunder and lightning, then naming his enemies
one by one, bade him strike them, who, all of them, fell OB
the discharge and disappeared. Encouraged by this vision,
and relating it to his colleague, next day he led on towards
Rome. About Picinse being met by a deputation, beseech-
ing him not to attack at once, in the heat of a march, for
that the senate had decreed to do him all the right imagin-
able, he consented to halt on the spot, and sent his officers
to measure out the ground, as is usual, for a camp ; so
that the deputation, believing it, returned. They were
no sooner gone, but he sent a party on under the com-
mand of Lucius Basillus and Caius Mummius, to secure
the city gate, and the walls on the side of the Esquilme hill,
and then close at their heels followed himself with all speed.
Basillus made his way successfully into the city, but the un-
armed multitude, pelting him with stones and tiles from off
the houses, stopped his further progress, and beat him back
to the wall. Sylla by this time was come up, and seeing
what was going on, called aloud to his men to set fire to
the houses, and taking a flaming torch, he himself led the
way, and commanded the archers to make use of their fire-
darts, letting fly at the tops of houses ; all which he did,
not upon any plan, but simply in his fury, yielding the con-
duct of that day's work to passion, and as if all he saw were
enemies, without respect or pity either to friends, rela-
tions, or acquiantance, made his entry by fire, which knows
no distinction betwixt friend or foe.

In this conflict, Marius, being driven into the temple of
Mother-Earth, thence invited the slaves by proclamation
of freedom, but the enemy coming on he was overpowered
and fled the city.

Sylla having called a senate, had sentence of death passed
on Marius, and some few others, amongst whom was Sulpi-
cius, tribune of the people. Sulpicius was killed, being be-
trayed by his servant, whom Sylla first made free, and then
threw him headlong down the Tarpeian rock. As for Ma-

8TLLA. 47

riiia, he set a price on his life, by proclamation, neither
gratefully nor politically, if we consider into whose house,
not long before, he put himself at mercy, and was safely
dismissed. Had Marius at that time not let Sylla go, but
suffered him to be slain by the hands of Sulpicius, he might
have been lord of all ; nevertheless he spared his life, and
a few days after, when in a similar position himself, received
a different measure.

By these proceedings, Sylla excited the secret distaste of
the senate; but the displeasure and free indignation of the
commonalty showed itself plainly by their actions. For
they ignominiously rejected Nonius, his nephew, and Ser-
vius, who stood for offices of state by his interest, and elected
others as magistrates, by honoring whom they thought
they should most annoy him. He made semblance of ex-
treme satisfaction at all this, as if the people by his means
had again enjoyed the liberty of doing what seemed best to
them. And to pacify the public hostility, he created Lucius
Cinna consul, one of the adverse party, having first bound
him under oaths and imprecations to be favorable to his
interest. For Cinna, ascending the capitol with a stone in
his hand, swore solemnly, and prayed with direful curses,
that he himself, if he were not true to his friendship with
Sylla, might be cast out of the city, as that stone out of his
hand ; and thereupon cast the stone to the ground, in the
presence of many people. Nevertheless Cinna had no
sooner entered on his charge, but he took measures to dis-
turb the present settlement, having prepared an impeach-
ment against Sylla, got Virginius, one of the tribunes of the
people, to be his accuser ; but Sylla, leaving him and the
court of judicature to themselves, set forth against Mithri-

About the time that Sylla was making ready to put off
with his force from Italy, besides many other omens which
befell Mithridates, then staying at Pergamus, there goes a
etory that a figure of Victory, with a crown in her hand.


wnicti the Pergamenians by machinery from above letdown
on him, when it had almost reached his head, fell to pieces,
and the crown tumbling down into the midst of the theatre,
there broke against the ground, occasioning a general
alarm among the populace, and considerably disquieting
Mithridates himself, although his affairs at that time were
succeeding beyond expectation. For having wrested Asia
from the Romans, and Bithynia and Cappadocia from then
kings, he made Pergamus his royal seat, distributing among
his friends riches, principalities, and kingdoms. Of his
sons, one residing in Pontus and Bosporus held his ancient
realm as far as the deserts beyond the lake Mseotis, with-
out molestation ; while Ariarathes, another, was reducing
Thrace and Macedon, with a great army, to obedience.
His generals, with forces under them, were establishing his
supremacy in other quarters. Archelaus, in particular,
with his fleet, held absolute mastery of the sea, and was
bringing into subjection the Cyclades, and all the other
islands as far as Malea, and had taken Euboea itself. Mak-
ing Athens his headquarters, from thence as far as Thessaly
he was withdrawing the states of Greece from the Roman
allegiance, without the least ill-success, except at Chseronea.
For here Bruttius Sura, lieutenant to Sentius, governor of
Macedon, a man of singular valor and prudence, met him,
and, though he came like a torrent pouring over Boeotia,
made stout resistance, and thrice giving him battle near
Chseronea, repulsed and forced him back to the sea. But

Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's Lives (Volume 3) → online text (page 4 of 38)